Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of Yoga that was taught by Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. This text was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900’s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927. This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a strong body, and a calm mind. This theory of eight different limbs, or components, is also known as “Eight-Limb Yoga”. It doesn’t imply that the practitioner has a double set of limbs, but Sri K. Pattabhi Jois showed that the optimum path of purification is made up of eight spiritual practices.
The basic idea is that these limbs only can be kept in balance by the appropriate application of the Ashtanga Yoga method.
The first four limbs that symbolize Ashtanga Yoga, and are considered externally correctable are (original names within double quotes):
– Moral codes or “yama”
– Self-purification or “niyama”
– Posture or “asana”
– Breath control or “pranayama”
Followed by the other set of limbs which are the internal practices:
– Sense control or “pratyahara”
– Meditation or “dhyana”
– Concentration or “dharana”
– Contemplation or “samadhi”
K. Pattabhi Jois stated that practicing these Eight Limbs, the body will become strong so that it can perform these methods well. If the body is weak, and the sense organs are not functioning well, practicing will not be productive. This is a primary philosophy that K. Pattabhi Jois applied and it is important that the Asthanga practitioner understand this.
Vinsaya and Tristhana in Ashtanga Yoga
Vinsaya is a style that makes Ashtanga and its fundamental principles different from other styles of yoga. Vinsaya basically means the movement and breathing is used effectively together in order to cleanse the body. Each movement is accompanied by only one breath. Sweat is an important product of Vinsaya. When you produce sweat, it indicates that you are successfully applying the method. When you perform the Asanas, or postures, the body produces heat which causes your blood to “boil” and excrete toxins from the body. These toxins are found in your sweat. So the more sweat you produce, the more toxins are released. This is the natural way for the body to rid unwanted substances.
The poses are used to fully develop the physical strength and health of the body. It is the sequence of practice that make this possible. There are three postures used in Ashtanga Yoga.
The three are grouped on different levels:
– The first is the Primary Series which aims on aligning the body and also detoxifying it.
– The second is the Intermediate Series opening and cleansing the energy channels which comes to the process of purifying the Nervous System.
– The last series would be the Advanced Series from A to D. In this set, the grace and strength are assessed.
Tristhana is another yoga principle which symbolizes the close union of the three places of action and attention. First is the posture, second is the breathing technique, and last is the Dristhi (view or gaze/focal point). All these three should work together to perform a function.
The breathing is always controlled and synchronized with the movements in such a way that each movement is accompanied by breath. Ujjayi breathing, a yoga breathing technique; is used in the implementation of Ashtanga Yoga. Applying this ancient technique is something that one must work on gradually in daily practice. This is an amazing breathing exercise that will intensify the internal fire and help the nervous system.
Both Ashtanga and Tristhana deal with the series of Dristhi. This allows your mind to be purified and stabilized clearly. Clearing your mind (sometimes compared to an active monkey) and cleansing it is the ultimate goal in the Eight-Limb Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga.
Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose or Low Plank) is one of the most challenging yoga poses done in every vinyasa and Sun Salutation often rushed through and done incorrectly. When done correctly, this challenging yoga pose has several benefits, including arm, wrist and abdomen strengthening. When practiced without proper alignment, Chaturanga can lead to shoulder, elbow, wrist and even lower back injuries.
Because Chaturanga Dandasana is a weight-bearing pose, wrist injuries are among the most common. Sometimes in yoga, we tend to use our strongest muscles to achieve difficult poses, instead of using the appropriate muscles. While in Chaturanga, many yoga students flatten their carpal tunnel, the narrow, tunnel-like structure in the wrist where several tendons and the median nerve pass, causing compression on the median nerve. Repetitive practice of this incorrect motion can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Chaturanga is a pose that uses all of the muscles in the body. To keep your body safe from injury, use your core for stabilization and activate your legs for support. While learning proper alignment and building strength,modify this pose by dropping to your knees (This decreases the weight on your back and shoulders, therefore you don’t need as much strength to do the pose as with your legs straight).
Here are some tips for a safe Chaturanga Dandasana:
Hopefully, this information will help you with your Chaturanga and keep you injury free. Remember that you can always modify the pose or skip it altogether.
Savasana, also spelled Shavasana or Shivasana, means corpse pose. For many, Savasana may seem to be one of the easiest asanas, but that is not the case. Even though it may look very simple and non-beneficial, it’s actually the most important pose in yoga practice. It is the asana which gives you the opportunity to completely relax. As you lie down it makes you aware about your body and how each part of your body plays a very important role in your life.
As you go along meditating it relaxes each nerve of your body and improves your respiration which creates the areas for energy and vitality. It benefits mentally as well as physically, which helps in focusing your positive energy for a greater good. Mind and body should not waiver while in this asana. Full concentration is required and it may prove to be useful in times when you need it the most. A motionless mind and body helps you reach the level of optimum relaxation. Listening to a soothing voice or some chants may also help you reach that meditated level.
The respiratory and circulatory system is cleared and opens to a more refreshing life. The overworked muscles tend to relax when you are in this asana. Every system in the body relaxes which gives them the breathing space to conserve energy and be more useful later on. It is very beneficial for people who are heart patient as well as suffering from blood pressure. It helps in improving your stress level and may also relieve you from slight depression. Minor problems like headache, fatigue and insomnia may also be reduced.
One of yoga’s most profound teachings is to cultivate a state of surrendering to the Divine. In Savasana, we get to practice this. Every time we lie in Savasana, we experience a feeling of letting go, accepting what is, and surrendering to the present moment. It’s a great time to cultivate this relaxed and enlightened state of being.
As yoga becomes a more popular activity in the West, the number of places holding Yoga classes is on the rise and there are a plethora of different styles and types of Yoga. When you are starting out with yoga it can be difficult to find which style suits you. Yoga is about finding what works best for you as you develop your relationship with your own body, so it is important to consider which style you chose. It is this decision that will encourage you to continue on your journey of self-discovery.
Below is a list of the 5 most common yoga styles with explanations that will give you a foundation to further explore and make your decision. You may want to try out more than one style to see which you enjoy most, and which benefits you the most.
Hatha Yoga – in Sanskrit (an ancient classical language of India) “Ha” means “sun” and “tha” means “moon”. This type of Yoga is relatively slow paced, gentle type of Yoga and is a good place to start if you are completely new to Yoga and don’t know any of the asanas (poses). Like all types of Yoga, Hatha Yoga aims to unite the mind, body and spirit.
Ashtanga Yoga – this is the type of Yoga that I practice on a regular basis and means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit. It’s a fast moving, intense style of Yoga practice and is based on a progressive set sequence of asanas, synchronized with the breath. Based on the ancient yoga teachings, Ashtanga was made more popular when it travelled to the West, brought by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in the 1970s. The difference with Ashtanga is that you practice the exact same poses in the exact same order. This means that your body and muscles can get used to the pattern, memorizing it so that your movements flow smooth and fast. Ashtanga Yoga can be physically demanding as you constantly move from one asana to the next, so you’ll find that it will improve your stamina as well as, your flexibility and strength.
Power Yoga – this is a western interpretation of Yoga and is based on Ashtanga Yoga. A Power Yoga class may not necessarily stick to the exact sequence of poses like Ashtanga Yoga does, but it does involve practicing a series of poses without stopping and starting.
Iyengar Yoga – This type of Yoga is based on teachings by B.K.S Igengar and concentrates on the correct alignment and form of the body. Unlike Ashtanga Yoga, there is an emphasis on holding each pose for a long period of time rather than moving constantly from one pose to the next. Iyengar Yoga uses props such as blocks and straps to help align the body into the different poses.
Vinyasa Yoga – Vinyasa means breath synchronized movement and is another fast paced type of Yoga, with an emphasis on breathing. A practice typically starts with sun salutations and moves on to more intense stretching. Throughout the practice each pose is balanced with a counter pose.
Bikram Yoga – otherwise known as “Hot Yoga”, is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees, with a humidity of around 40%. Generally a sequence of 26 different poses is practiced during a Bikram Yoga class and the hot temperature helps to loosen muscles. Due to the high temperature most people sweat a lot during the class and this helps to cleanse the body of toxins.
This is just a short list of the many styles of yoga practiced today. If you’re just starting out or have never practiced any Yoga before, I recommend trying a few different styles to find out which you like best. Remember, there’s no rule that says you have to stick to one type of Yoga. After all, variety is the spice of life!
The name Trikonasana comes from the Sanskrit words trikona which means triangle and asana which means pose. Trikonasana is an excellent pose for developing strength and balance. It also gives flexibility to the legs, waist and knees. It gives a sense of expansiveness as the arms and torso are bent while reaching for the toes. This pose gives a sense of balance to the whole body. One advantage of this pose is that it can be practiced at any time or at any place. Many people who sit at a desk or a computer during the day will find this asana beneficial for encouraging good blood circulation, eliminating aches and pains in the back, neck and the entire body. If you feel stiffness in your leg, waist or torso muscles while doing this, then perform this asana very slowly with slow deep breathing. In time, your body will develop the flexibility and the stiffness will go away.
Modifications: Use a yoga block on the floor to support the lower hand.
Caution: Those suffering from back and neck injuries should avoid this asana. Also those who have high or low blood pressure should do this slowly with care or discontinue if there is any discomfort. Those suffering from vertigo also should practice this asana with caution. As with any exercise regimen including yoga, it’s always best to speak with your physician first.
Warrior 1 is a common yoga pose that is practiced in many styles of yoga and is often followed by other Warrior variations, such as Warriors 2. It is also a great posture for preparing the body for back-bends and is also seen in the traditional Sun Salutation B sequence. This pose was named after the mythic warrior Vibabhadra, it is meant to promote a feeling of strength and power.
Warrior poses are very physically demanding quite symbolic of the warrior energy. Although they require some strength; they also require the chest and heart area remain open. Strength and softness. Warrior 1 is a great posture for stretching many areas of both the lower and upper body.
Beginners usually find it hard to ground the back heel and lengthen the lower back in this pose. A solution to this could be to lift the back heel on a height like sand bag.
Use a chair or fitness ball under the hips to take some of the weight off of the front leg. Or hold onto the back of the chair (turned sideways) or a wall for support.
Warrior I Pose precautions:
Avoid this pose if you suffer from high blood pressure or heart problems. Those with shoulder problems/injuries should keep their raised arms either parallel or a little wider than parallel to each other.
Those with neck problems should keep their head in a position that is neutral and not look up at the hands.
Yoga is an ancient science that aims to create a balance between the body, mind and spirit, thereby curing physical mental and spiritual disorders that are caused by this imbalance. In common language, yoga means union; it’s a union of the individual consciousness with the super-consciousness. To be exact, yoga aims at reminding the individual of this union that already exists and has merely been forgotten. To put it simply, yoga is experiencing and knowing what already exists, not inventing anything new.
At the physical level, yoga can create a balance and harmony among the various organs and systems of the body, allowing the healing powers inherent in the body to work and cure physical ailments. At the mental level, yoga is the harmony between mind, heart and hands or between thought, speech and action. At the spiritual level, yoga aims to destroy the individual ego that stands between the individual and the cosmos, thus attaining to the ultimate truth.
Yoga is a set of systematically devised physical exercises that lay emphasis on balance and posture. Combined with breathing exercises they have the capacity to cure almost any ailment of the body and mind. The underlying concept of yoga is to create the situation in which the human body can function at its optimum capacity.
Yoga Asanas or poses are simple and effective body movements that massage the muscles lubricate the joints and tone the whole body. Yoga poses help to keep the body healthy and the mind peaceful. Asanas exercise the nerves, glands, ligaments, and muscles. These exercises increase flexibility and balance in the body.
Yoga poses refer to the sequence of exercises which is extremely important to get the best results. They are scientifically graded to move from the simple to the complex, to cure the body first and then move on to mental and spiritual goals.
Though it is best to begin yoga practice under the guidance of a trained yoga teacher, you can now learn to do these exercises at home with the help of books, videos and online yoga classes. Once you have learned the basic exercises you can make it a part of your daily routine. It’s best to have a time and place for practicing yoga so that you can be regular and reap rich benefits from it. After some time you will see a change in yourself. Your body will become more flexible, stronger and healthy; you will have a positive attitude and your worldview on life will become beautiful. You will feel blessed!
Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose) is a standing pose that stretches the obliques and strengthens the legs and the core. When you think of stretching and flexibility, most people picture sitting on the floor and reaching for your feet or contorting your body in different and challenging ways. Poses like Extended Side Angle are very effective in opening the hips and stretching the torso. Using your body weight against gravity is an excellent way to open tight muscles and release connective tissue. In the traditional Extended Side Angle pose you reach your hand all the way to the floor. This is an excellent stretch, however not possible for everyone due to an inflexible spine or tight hips. Resting your elbow on your knee (as pictured) eases up some on the stretch and allows you to rest as much or as little weight on your knee as you wish. Once you are able to complete this stretch with elbow on knee you can begin to reach your hand to the ground for a deeper stretch.
How to: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Step your feet apart, about 3-4 feet. Lift your arms out to the sides until they are parallel to the floor. Focus on reaching out through your fingers, palms down. Turn your left foot in slightly and turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Anchor the outside of your left foot into the mat and bend your right knee. Bring your left arm up toward the ceiling and turn your palm toward your head. Look to your left. Exhale and bend to your right, trying to put the right side of your torso on your right thigh. Place your right fingertips or hand on the floor or a block just outside of your right foot. If that stretch is too deep, place your right elbow on your right knee with the palm up. Hold the pose for 5 long breaths, then release and repeat on the other side.
Caution: Do not practice this pose if you are currently experiencing headaches, insomnia, or high or low blood pressure. If you have a neck injury or current neck pain, do not turn your head upward in the pose. Instead, keep your gaze straight ahead with both sides of your neck evenly extended. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
Surya Namaskara B (Sun Salutation B) is a series of postures that are linked together by using the breath. Surya means the sun and Namaskar means a greeting or salutation in honor of the divine present in each of us. The sequence presented here is usually practiced after several rounds of Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskara A). Sun Salutation B includes many of the same components of Sun Salutations in most styles of yoga, with the inclusion of Warrior I pose. Remember to breathe through your nose as you practice; it will help to warm your body and bring a meditative state of mind. If you’re having trouble breathing smoothly, relax your practice a bit. Make sure not to force yourself and always work within your own range of limits and abilities.
Proper circulation throughout the body is essential to move through a healthy day-to-day life. In addition to your diet, there are numerous exercises and positions that can help improve blood and oxygen flow. One of the benefits of practicing yoga is the overall improvement in circulation. The focus on proper breathing during practice increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood. In yoga, most of the poses are designed to optimize circulation from your head to your toes. Here are 6 poses that you should practice every day to help:
Legs-Up-the Wall (supported on a block): Inverting with your legs up the wall is the exact opposite of our standard seated posture throughout the day. This pose uses gravity and stretches the thigh muscles, facilitating circulation to push impure blood from the legs and pelvis towards heart.
Downward Facing Dog: This pose is great for circulation because your hips are higher than your heart, which facilitates blood flow toward the upper body and brain.
Camel Pose: This pose increases circulation to the heart and lungs by expanding the chest. (Modification: If this pose bothers your knees, double your mat or place a blanket under your knees. If you have any neck issues keep your chin tucked into your chest).
Triangle Pose: This pose increases blood flow to the torso by opening the chest and expanding the lungs. (Modifications: Use a block under your bottom hand if it’s too much of a stretch to bring it down further. Keep your chin in line with the sternum if you have any neck issues).
Seated Forward Fold: This seated forward bend, also called Head-to-Knee Pose, improves circulation to the legs, and by extension, the feet, as well as the core of the body.
Warrior I pose: stretches the muscles of arms, shoulders, neck, legs, and groin favoring muscle contraction and relaxation. Such tone up muscles encourages circulation. Furthermore, the joints of the legs, the waist and those of spinal cord and neck get curved exactly in opposite direction, regulating the blood circulation in those joints.
*Prior to beginning any yoga regimen, always consult with your physician first. Remember to practice within your means and modify poses when needed.
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